The Sikhs are known for bhangra, a dance style that originated and developed in the Indian state of Punjab. Bhangra is a joyous community dance to celebrate Vaisakhi, the harvest festival.  The bhangra style has evolved from its original art form of Bagga, a Sikh style of martial art.

Old Shanghai also known Paris of the East for its very cosmopolitan atmosphere housed several cafes where live bands played all kinds of music, especially western jazz heavily influenced by Chinese instruments and melodies.  Traveling African-American bands played in cafes including Earl Whaley and his band from Seattle.


Earl Whaley & his band. Click the image to read more on his band,

But, what about the Sikhs? Where are the pictures of Sikhs in Shanghai celebrating Vaisakhi or breaking into a jig? Conditions, living, financial were grim but even then the Shanghai Sikhs prospered with their thrifty habits. Would they have visited a dhaba (small roadside cafe ) outside the International Settlement to enjoy some singing of Punjabi folk music? Or did they attune themselves to Chinese or western music of the times? Did any Indian(visitor or Old Shanghai resident) perform in a band any time?

These absent elements in dominant colony narratives of Old Shanghai reflect the invisible status of the Sikhs. It’s become a refrain in most of my posts and more questions come up than answers. Maybe that will change soon!